These remarkable 19th century sepia-tinted pictures show the American West as you have never seen it before - as it was charted for the first time.

The photos, by Timothy O'Sullivan, are the first ever taken of the rocky and barren landscape.

At the time federal government officials were travelling across Arizona, Nevada, Utah and the rest of the west as they sought to uncover the land's untapped natural resources.

Timothy O'Sullivan, who used a box camera, worked with the Government teams as they explored the land. He had earlier covered the U.S. Civil War and was one of the most famous photographers of the 19th century.

He also took pictures of the Native American population for the first time as a team of artists, photographers, scientists and soldiers explored the land in the 1860s and 1870s.

The images of the landscape were remarkable - because the majority of people at the time would not have known they were there or have ever had a chance to see it for themselves.

Native: Maiman, a Mojave Indian, guide and interpreter during a portion of the season in the Colorado country, in 1871.

O'Sullivan died from tuberculosis at the age of 42 in 1882 - just years after the project had finished .

He carted a dark room wagon around the Wild West on horseback so that he could develop his images. He spent seven years exploring the landscape and thousands of pictures have survived from his travels.

The project was designed to attract settlers to the largely uninhabited region.

O'Sullivan used a primitive wet plate box camera which he would have to spend several minutes setting up every time he wanted to take a photograph.

Aboriginal life among the Navajo Indians. Near old Fort Defiance, New Mexico, in 1873.

He would have to assemble the device on a tripod, coat a glass plate with collodion - a flammable solution. The glass would then be put in a holder before being inserted into a camera.

After a few seconds exposure, he would rush the plate to his dark room wagon and cover it in chemicals to begin the development process.

Native American (Paiute) men, women and children pose for a picture near a tree.

Considered one of the forerunners to Ansel Adams, Timothy O'Sullivan is a hero to other photographers according to the Tucson Weekly.

'Most of the photographers sent to document the West's native peoples and its geologic formations tried to make this strange new land accessible, even picturesque,' said Keith McElroy a history of photography professor in Tucson.

'Not O'Sullivan.

Shoshone Falls, Idaho near present-day Twin Falls, Idaho, is 212 feet high, and flows over a rim 1,000 feet wide.

'At a time when Manifest Destiny demanded that Americans conquer the land, he pictured a West that was forbidding and inhospitable.

'With an almost modern sensibility, he made humans and their works insignificant.

'His photographs picture scenes, like a flimsy boat helpless against the dark shadows of Black Canyon, or explorers almost swallowed up by the crevices of Canyon de Chelly.' (Source)

Incredible: Tents can be seen (bottom, centre) at a point known as Camp Beauty close to canyon walls in Canyon de Chelly National Monument, Arizona.

Land rising from the water: The Pyramid and Domes, a line of dome-shaped tufa rocks in Pyramid Lake, Nevada photographed in 1867.

Breathtaking: Twin buttes stand near Green River City, Wyoming, photographed in 1872 four years after settlers made the river basin their home.

Native Americans: The Pah-Ute (Paiute) Indian group, near Cedar, Utah in a picture from 1872.

Landscape: Browns Park, Colorado

Native Americans: Boat crew of the 'Picture' at Diamond Creek.

Two men sit looking at headlands north of the Colorado River Plateau in 1872.

Responses to "Gorgeous sepia-tinted pictures show the landscape as it was charted for the very first time"

  1. Anonymous says:

    Gorgeous time in history. . when the land and it's people were as they should be...

  2. Anonymous says:

    Wonderful pictures! I wish I could see more. A lasting tribute to the land and the people.

  3. dkc says:

    These are so beautiful! Thank you for posting:-)

  4. Anonymous says:

    "uncover the land's untapped natural resources". Translation: lay out a plan to invade Native American territory and steal all their resources.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Wonderful record of a time gone by. It should not be so, there was room for everyone. When will humans learn

  6. Hydee says:

    Well said Anonymous

  7. Hydee says:
    This comment has been removed by the author.
  8. Dave says:

    Amazing pictures from the past. Productivity was very low, life was very hard then especially compared to today. Perhaps we can return to a balance whereby today's high productivity can recombine with an embrace of respect for the natural living web of life of the planet which humans are pretty well destroying through greed driven capitalism, then and now.


  10. Carole80 says:

    Magnifiques !!!! wonderful !!

  11. Anonymous says:

    Where are these pictures coming from? I have a small book which features the way of life of the natives years ago, Edward S. Curtis.... Are these pictures from him. He has volumes of pictures and a few years ago they were sitting the basements of Libraries, I do hope that you are showcasing his work!!!! He did some wonderful work!! Bonnie

  12. Anonymous says:

    Last annonymous post asking if pics were Edward S Curtis'. No! Obviously did not read the article , or would have noted it clearly stated that photos were by Timothy O'Sullivan. Mr. O'Sullivan produced these before Curtis ever staated. Also most all of Curtis pics, although nice were very staged. Natives were not as they would normally be, but set up to be what Curtis and other non-Natives assumed they were like and in poses different from the norm. Sad, because like our history books tthen and today portray our people wrong.

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